Hornets Survive the Magic in a Thriller

Published: January 12, 2011

In a game that will surely be remembered by everyone in attendance, the Hornets survived a barrage of threes by the Magic late in the fourth quarter to escape with a much needed victory. MVP goes to Emeka Okafor, who despite being outplayed by Dwight Howard, did enough to get his team the victory. The final score was Hornets 92-Magic 89.

Despite a 6-0 start to the game, things got scary early on for the Hornets. First off, Marco Belinelli suffered a game ending ankle tweak only a minute in. Then the Magic started playing their usual basketball and took a fairly substantial lead. With a minute gone in the second quarter the Magic were up by eight and the Hornets looked out of sync on both ends of the floor.

Enter Marcus Thornton.

Buckets was the difference maker in the first half tonight, playing 14 big minutes and scoring ten points to go along with four rebounds. His timing was perfect, as a couple athletic drives to hoop resulted in pretty buckets, energizing a crowd that seemed on the verge of turning on what was at the point a fairly apathetic Hornets team. It took him ten shots to get those ten points, but one of them was a desperate heave to beat the shot clock that barely found the backboard.

The second half wasn’t as kind to him, but make no mistake- Without his play in the first half the game could have gone much differently. The one glaring negative in his game tonight was his three point shooting. He went 0-5 before knocking one down with nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter, and two of the misses had the potential to put the Hornets up by double figures.

He had a straight hustle play in 8:15 to go in the fourth quarter. With the shot clock dwindling Jarret Jack threw up a prayer which somehow caught some rim. Marcus ran to the corner, caught the ball while falling out of bounds, and pegged it off a Magic player. Hornets ball. They wasted the extra possession, but it was nice to see nonetheless.

With 4:06 to go in the fourth the Hornets held a razor thin 2 point lead, 74-72. Marcus Thornton entered the game, and Hornets fans got to see the closing lineup that so many of us thought we would before the season started. The first time he touched the ball was on a one on one break, and he drew a rare foul (he had only taken only 22 free throws on the year prior to tonight), knocking down both free throws in the aftermath.

Jason Richardson knocked down a big three pointer to pull the Magic back within four with just over a minute to play. Then Okafor got fouled and stepped up to take two big free throws. He was 1/6 at the time and clearly didn’t have a lot of confidence, but he stepped up and made the first one. Huge. That’s what happens when you practice as hard as anyone else in the league. True, he missed the second, and the Hornets got screwed around on the subsequent out of bounds call, but that first one was big. Missing both could have really affected the team’s confidence.

Down five the Magic gave the ball to Jason Richardson who knocked down yet another three, taking about two seconds to do so. All of a sudden the lead, which was seven only 20 seconds earlier, was all of a sudden down to just two. The crowd stood up for the final time, and loudness ensued.

Paul wasted 22 seconds of time, and then missed a shot. Guess who came up with the big rebound? BUCKETS! Well, Okafor sort of got it. I’m not sure who actually got credit, but Marcus was crucial in us retaining the ball.

As the Magic fouled Paul he desperately tried to get off one of his patented three foul shot shots, but was unable to successfully plead his case to the ref. He made one of two free throws and the lead was three. Then Hedo knocked down a wide open trey, tying the game up with seven seconds to go.

So obviously Chris Paul is going to shoot it, right? Yup! Oh wait, no! No! NO! He passed it to David west for a contested jumper! Nooooooooooooo! <– You know you thought this exact thing.


The Magic went right at Okafor to start overtime, successfully I might add. Marcus answered with a tree, and then Dwight dunked yet another ball home on the other end. After Marcus barely missed a driving layup, Ariza made a real heads up play and took a charge. Paul then missed an easy jumper after a sweet move and yet again Howard put the ball in the basket.

Okafor answered on the other end after another missed Buckets layup. The Hornets caused the Magic to commit a shot clock violation on the other end that resulted in double technicals for Paul and Brandon Bass. Either way, the Hornets gotthe ball down one with two minutes to go.

Ariza made a nice cut for an easy layup to take the lead, but Richardson would answer with a driving layup to take it back. Then Marcus knocked down a huge jumper to a thunderous ovation with 34 seconds to go. Hornets 90, Magic 89.

After a series of fouls, Dwight Howard stepped up to the line with 11.6 seconds to go. Blink. Brick number one! AND BRICK NUMBER TWO! BOOMSHAKALAKA.



After a sweet inbound pass (nah I’m just kidding), Paul got fouled. Next time it was Thornton. Marcus headed to the line with a one point lead and eight seconds to go. Swish. Almost swish but still in. Three point lead. It was a great feeling watching him be the difference maker in overtime. Hopefully there is more to come.

Reddick missed the game tying three and Paul threw the ball in the air as the Hornets began celebrating their victory before it even landed.

Howard vs Okafor

At first it looked like Dwight Howard was going to have a typical dominating game against Emeka Okafor. On the offensive end, he did, but Okafor didn’t get discouraged and managed to play relatively well. He finished the first half with 8-5 as opposed to Dwight’s 14-7.

The second half started with some good plays on both ends of the floor by Okafor, and even though Dwight found an open dunk, he wasn’t able to get into the same rhythm he had in the first half offensively. Credit has to go to Okafor, who remained active throughout the game on both ends. He really gave Dwight a taste of his own medicine with all those dunks, and might have changed some minds in the process. Still wish he could finish strong on a regular basis, but tonight was a nice effort.

They battled with 8:45 to go in the fourth for a rebound and when Okafor got the call Howard was visibly upset. He few a technical on Dwight with 2:20 left, adding a valuable point to the Hornets lead. Dwight is obviously not used to Okafor putting up a fight against him. Too bad, big guy. Those days are over (hopefully).

The game ended with Okafor putting up 18-14 and Howard with a whopping 29-20. It seems like a huge difference in production, but considering how Dwight normally destroys Okafor, I was thrilled with the performance of Okafor. I guess I should mention that Emeka finished 2/8 from the free throw line. That’s some quality stuff right there.

Am I actually crediting Okafor for allowing his mark to go for 29-20? Yes. Will I regret that after the excitement wears off? Probably not. It was an impressive performance and he stayed out of foul trouble the entire game. It was key having him in overtime.

Player Notes

  • Thornton finished with 22 points on 18 shots, and nine rebounds. His rebounding remains remarkably improved.
  • Aaron Gray saw some time in the first half, but none of it was against Dwight Howard. Too bad, because I was looking forward to seeing how he did now that he didn’t have a big weight advantage to go with his superior height.
  • Trevor Ariza had a quietly efficient night on both ends. He harassed Hedo on defense for most of the game and managed to score quite a few himself. I didn’t write much about him, but he very well could have been the player of the game on both ends. He finished with 16 points on 12 shots, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. He had only 1 turnover.
  • After Marco got hurt in the first half, it was possible that we would see Marcus Thornton start the second half, but it was Willie Green who trotted out there with the starters. If Marco does miss some time, it appears for now that Willie Green will somehow be a starter yet again. Looking at his numbers it’s pretty incredible how many games he’s started in his career.
  • West (13 points on 18 shots, and 10 rebounds ) just kept staring at Ryan Anderson while knocked down open three pointers. Did he not see the scouting report on the guy?
  • Paul spent most of the game he was focused almost entirely on controlling the tempo, finding open players, and keeping turnovers down. I say this not as a negative, but as a matter of fact. He added in a missed free throw with 15 seconds left, when two would have put the lead at four. He finished with 12 points on 12 shots, 13 assists versus 1 turnover, and 5 rebounds.

Other Game Notes

  • The teams combined for only seven first half free throws and eight personal fouls. They had 19 the rest of the way.
  • In the past I’ve talked about how some of the halftime shows are pretty awesome, and tonight was what I’m talking about. How often do you get to see a soul electric violin player? I’m not saying it’s something I want to go and listen to for two hours at a show, but for 10 minutes in between some hoops it’s great.
  • Remember how in past years we would see three or four players taking absurd shots when warming up? Not this year. Everyone seems a lot more focused on actually getting in the right place mentally.
  • A couple of minor bumps to the head really slowed down the game late in the third quarter. The good thing about head injuries in the NBA is that you can generally tell right away if they are serious or not. These clearly weren’t.
  • Anyone want to say anything about the officiating? I certainly don’t. Who knows what might come out.
  • Attendance was announced at 13,688, a far cry from what is needed. It looked like there were more than that, and there was clearly more traffic to this game than there has been to other games which had low attendance. I saved this for last since it’s crappy news and has no place on this otherwise joyous day.


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